With the advent of a bilateral tourism agreement signed between the US and China at the end of 2007, the Chinese industry was excited about the prospects of a new shining and sought after destination for their clients. Equally excited were the US state and city tourism promotion bodies and private tour operators eager to find a new revenue stream as America’s tourism industry suffers from a global economic downturn. Many tourism promotion bodies opened representative offices or appointed sales representatives in China in anticipation of the tourism boom. From July 2008, Chinese tour groups began to travel to the US on a tourist visas. The weakness of the US Dollar in relation to the Chinese Yuan means stronger purchasing power for Chinese consumers, who are on the whole aspiring to visit the America they see in cinema and television.
We would advise caution in reading too much into this new agreement. Even before it was inked, Chinese traveled to the US on so-called business tour groups and estimates put them at around 400,000 per year. The US authorities expect tourism to grow to 500,000 in 2011. This is a very slow, controlled and unambitious figure that makes it difficult for destinations in the US to realize returns on their investment in the Chinese market quickly.